Scourge of sandwich boards rears ugly head on Newbury Street again

The City Council agreed today to take a look at how to make Newbury Street safe for pedestrians - especially those in wheelchairs or pushing strollers - on sidewalks increasingly cluttered with signboards advertising local shops.

Councilor Josh Zakim (Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, Mission Hill) says the problem is particularly acute in the winter, when accumulations of snow and ice make already narrow sidewalks even narrower.

He and Councilor Michael Flaherty (at large) both pointed to a sandwich-board arms race - store owners who normally would have no truck with the signs feel compelled to buy and deploy them because their competitors have rolled them out.

The city currently has a pilot program to develop guidelines for specific neighborhoods for the boards. Flaherty said sandwich boards seem to work well on your wider Broadways, Dot Aves and Centre Streets, but that the narrower commercial streets of the Back Bay might warrant particular attention.



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Makes Perfect Sense

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Good idea.

Having worked on Newbury St. for close to thirty years, I was amazed that a pedestrian-friendly zone wasn't established years ago. Newbury St. is a natural candidate for another 'market zone' like Haymarket Sq. and Downtown Crossing.

Perhaps, more than just sandwich signs are the problem?

In any case, the time for this always presents itself, especially in the Springtime.


So close the street to people

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So close the street to people who have physical mobility challenges? This may shock you,but there are people and families of lived ones who need vehicles due to physical disabilities. Not everyone can get around on bike and/ or foot. Sorry, but I'm not on board with that kind of discrimination.


No cars = discrimination?

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Is it also discrimination when the Stop & Shop makes me park in the parking lot and doesn't just let me drive my Toyota around the aisles?

I've seen plenty of physically disabled people in Downtown Crossing, or at Haymarket, Fanueil Hall, and many of the other areas in Boston that don't allow cars. Believe it or not, it's totally possible for physically disabled people to take the T, use a bus, or park somewhere else and then walk or use a wheelchair to get over to Newbury Street. Blocking off cars doesn't suddenly make it a "no-go zone", especially if you're using that extra space to widen sidewalks and make it easier for people in wheelchairs or using walkers.

(and it's not even guaranteed a physically disabled person would be able to drive and park where they need to on Newbury anyway, given that most of the parking is not handicapped spaces).


Not all disabilities are the

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Not all disabilities are the same. What about people you didn't see around DTX because they couldn't get there?

People don't need reserved parking in front of their destination to be affected by a street closure. They could be dropped off today.


Oh weird, so they just do it on their own? No lawsuits needed?

And thats really strange because in Berlin, I noticed all the subway stations had a path made of different floor materials that would guide the visually imparied to and from the platforms, despite not having the ADA.

Nah, lets not design our cities around the most vulnerable and instead lets drag it out in courts or pay fines year after year that we have non-compliance.

Gov. Center was not ADA accessible until 26 years after ADA was signed.

ADA accessibility on the Green Line

A number of the Green Line subway stations are still not ADA compliant, nearly 40 years after the ADA was signed: Boylston, Symphony, and Hynes, to name the ones I'm most familiar with.

Do Symphony and Hynes have elevators

Those shiny, metal bridge-plates at Green Line street levels stops provide mobility-impaired passengers with access to the Green Line trains.

These are some MassDot postings online told me...peep the dates on these accessibility project announcements:

Parcel 13 Hynes Station Developer, January 6, 2014 | MassDOT and the MBTA have approved a real estate deal that will leverage more than $30 million in private development funding for the delivery of a state-of-the-art, fully accessible Hynes Convention Center Station on the Green Line in Boston’s Back Bay.

(Quote source: )

As part of the MBTA’s System Wide Accessibility Program, the MBTA is studying how to provide full accessibility to Symphony Station on the Green Line. This study includes the design of four new elevators, along with significant station modifications consisting of raising boarding platforms, new egress points at the platforms, a renovated station lobby, and reconditioning of the currently non-functioning restrooms.

(Quote source: )

I wonder: if certain T stations lack elevators for ADA accessibility then perhaps nearby bus routes are required to be ADA-accessible?

Passengers needing mobility accessibility can take the Route 1 bus on Mass. Ave (same with Hynes Convention Center). The Silver Line also services stop near Boylston T stop as well as the Route 43 bus.

No elevators

There are no elevators at either Symphony or Hynes.

I don't use a wheelchair, but my bad knees make stairs especially challenging. Any passenger on crutches, or wrangling a baby carriage, is in the same boat. I'm not sure how the Route 1 bus is supposed to help us get out of Symphony Station, unless you're suggesting that it's an acceptable accommodation to have to make multiple connections in order to take the bus to Symphony instead of being able to exit at that station.

Also, the more I think about it, the more I don't understand where you think I should be catching the 1. I'm most likely coming either from my home in Allston - B Line inbound - or from my work near Brigham Circle - E Line inbound. Am I supposed to go the long way around and take the 66 to Harvard Square and catch the 1 from there? From work, do I go up to Roxbury Crossing or Ruggles and take the Orange Line in to catch the 1 at Mass Ave station?

I actually do often go to Park Street in order to get to Chinatown, rather than Boylston, but again, it's not a good accommodation to force me to travel farther both on the subway and on the street in order to get to a station where I can exit comfortably.

As for the lifts at (some of) the Green Line surface stops, they're not much use to a rider like me who has issues with stairs but doesn't use a wheelchair. Also, note the "(some of)" - only 5 of the 18 B Line surface stops are accessible. Similarly, the C Line has 12 surface stops, of which 4 are accessible. The D line is better, with 9 out of 13 surface stops accessible, and the E Line has a whopping 5 out of 9, although none of the stops between Brigham Circle and the end of the line at Heath Street are accessible.

Closing the street to cars

Closing the street to cars would increase its accessibility, because people in wheelchairs would no longer be confined to very narrow, very crowded, very cluttered sidewalks. It certainly would make it more accessible to people who are unable to drive because of physical and mental disabilities.

The increase in pedestrian space would make it easier for buildings to install accessible ramps on a street where most businesses are several feet above or below grade.

And it wouldn't be difficult to designate more placard parking on the connecting side streets.


Well certainly not in Boston

Because theres a 25 MPH speed limit on most roads and you could get pulled over by the police and handed a tick....hahahha omg I can't say that with a straight face.

Don't worry, you'll still be able to drag race (relatively) consequence free.


Close the street to car traffic...No

Businesses on Newbury are already on the decline, decreasing/eliminating car traffic doesn't help nor did the massive increase in meter costs-it's dead if you haven't been here. Yes, the 3 times a year in the summer for open Newbury are fun and work but I don't think we will see vendors and pedestrian traffic like that in the winter. We could make this a dead zone like all the pedestrian malls from the 70's but Urban Planning 101 suggests this is not correct. Also, for those of us that are long time residents or business owners this is an important thoroughfare just for our daily lives. So if you don't live here or don't have a business here maybe you should talk to those that do.

We could make this a dead

We could make this a dead zone like all the pedestrian malls from the 70's but Urban Planning 101 suggests this is not correct.

Downtowns in the 70s died whether or not they were pedestrianized. It wasn't pedestrianization that cause it, it was recession, white flight, and other social factors. I don't think every street needs to be pedestrianized, but Newbury makes sense to.

Close the street to car traffic, not

So I think first we need to close yoiur neighborhood to car traffic-including the street in front of your home-bicylist? Not everyone is-some of us need to commute for work.

Week one:
Woo hoo it's like open Newbury again!

Week two:
We did this last weekend but it's kinda ok.

Week three:
The suburbanites no longer come to to go to lunch, go to the spas and frequent the local businesses. This business is moving out of the city.

Week four:
Major retailers that had previously used marketing funds to pay for exorbitant Newbury street retail rate stop renewing leases.

Week five, local small business begin to declare bankruptcy and relinquish leases. Many neighborhood people that have these business file bankruptcy.

Week six, Talanian and the other major brokers on the street get concerned. They offer discounted lease but it's too late, the locals are bankrupt and the big kids no longer see value.

Week twenty:
We are going to jump ahead as all the real estate brokers think they can "wait this one out". There are now 75 retail spaces available on Newbury. Bike messengers now have an easy ride. Nothing for locals to shop,at our suburbanites. The last nail salon has move to newton.

Week twenty one:
Essentially no more business here, pain in the axx to park nearby. No reason to go here except open Newbury in August... People that actually LIVE on the street can't park or get deliveries.

Can we take traffic and parking off the street you live on?

See if you're gonna make a data driven argument like that

At least bring some receipts.

Twenty million anonymized transactions were analyzed by the bank and Madrid city council, and it was discovered that the decision to limit road access to the city center by motorists led to a 9.5% increase in retail takings on Madrid’s main shopping street, the Gran Vía.

Also yes, PLEASE take the parking off my street and open only to residents :)


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Give me a break. Maybe leave the triple wide stroller at home.


You know what your comment shows?

It shows that you never get out with your kids in the city.

These things block even tiny dollar store umbrella strollers and Uppababys alike - strollers that have no problem getting on buses or through doors.


Yeah, screw people who want to raise kids in the city!

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They should move to the burbs and drive their kids everywhere like God intended.

The knee jerk snark on big strollers is way out of proportion to any problem they cause. Particularly for people with two little kids, there's a window of time when a big stroller is the best way to get them around town. Double-wide umbrella strollers are wider, and also suck.

Ripping on the bougies is always fun, granted, but wheeling kids around in a big stroller is far less obtrusive than putting them in an SUV.

elephant in the room

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Removing sandwich boards to make it safer for pedestrians - while doing nothing about the 4 lanes of cars - is like trying to free up space on a TB hard drive by deleting text files.


Better analogy

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It's like removing text files that are cluttering the Desktop.


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Councilor Josh Zakim (Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, Mission Hill) says the problem is particularly acute in the winter, when accumulations of snow and ice make already narrow sidewalks even narrower.

...they could try clearing the snow and citing business owners who don't.



Most businesses and residents do clear the snow and promptly-fines for those that don't. But there is the 2-3 foot mound on the sidewalk at the curb as their is absolutely no place else to put it. Come on down and take it away!

Close the street to vehicular traffic

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Open Newbury 365 days a year and you'll have a wide boulevard with PLENTY of room for sandwichboards, strollers, wheelchairs, pedestrians, cornhole, outdoor dining, ping box, outdoor music, vendors, adirondack chairs... EVERYTHING but cars circling the block to find the parking space that they won't, in most cases, find.


Good idea

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People in wheelchairs or pushing strollers should have a clear path on the sidewalks. The other suggestions people are making can be useful but won't solve the problem of cluttered sidewalks. People need to be able to move down the sidewalk itself to get to store entrances - getting rid of cars or parking won't help that problem.

First you ban cars. Then you

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First you ban cars. Then you make everything level. No difference in height anywhere. Pedestrian zones around the world figured this out a long time ago.

In the meantime pedestrians should move those huge sandwich boards out of the way. Put them against the store or in between parking spots. I've done this recently on Newbury. The stores will take the hint eventually.


Let's start painting large,

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Let's start painting large, colorful murals of everybody dancing in peace and harmony all over Newbury Street like the ones in Jackson Square and next to Bromley Heath.

Move the sandwhich boards...

This is the first step and regulations require them to be on the owner of the property not a public way. I constantly move them as I go down the street much to the consternation of those that stick them on the sidewalk. Issue a notice to all business owners and give them two weeks to comply. Then send a DPW truck down the street, pick up all those that didn't and let them pay a fine if they want back. They are in the way in the summer. much worse in the winter when the sidewalk is narrowed by snow.

Not a fan at all of permanently closing Newbury Street to vehicular traffic-knee jerk reactio0n from those that neither live her, do business here or have the least understanding of basic urban design principals or this neighborhood.

I am for getting rid of all the double parking that blocks the street-particularly at Shake Shack. BPD and BTD do a pretty good job of this but lets go all New York and just tow them. Uber and Lyft drivers? Double double parking, stop anywhere, stand in resident parking-don't get me started. 1.5 hours coming home tonight, couldn't find a spot and 7-10 U/L drivers standing in resident parking. Finally got "aggressive" with one, pulled up on their bumper and honked until they moved.

Not a fan at all of

Not a fan at all of permanently closing Newbury Street to vehicular traffic-knee jerk reactio0n from those that neither live her, do business here or have the least understanding of basic urban design principals or this neighborhood.

Hi. I have lived in Boston for 6+ years. I am currently, and for several years have been, a student of urban planning at a school on Newbury, so I spend a lot of time there.

This is not a knee-jerk reaction. A lot of knowledgeable and interested people, myself included, have wanted to open Newbury (i.e. close it to cars) for years.

Am I missing something here?

Store owners are putting stuff (for example, signboards) onto public property (for example, sidewalks), in such a way as to inconvenience the public. Why is this a matter for the City Council to discuss, as opposed to ISD Code Enforcement officers to issue citations and Public Works to pick up and dispose of the stuff?


What really grinds my gears

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is that one obnoxious storefront that doesn’t clear their entire sidewalk, despite their neighbors clearing theirs, and then has the nerve to put their sign on part of the cleared walkway.

Maybe the choke point helps drive the stores foot traffic...